Ending a spate of runner-up finishes at Woodbine, Big Band Sound spurted away from the field at mid-stretch and held sway to win the $203,980 Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT) by 2 1/2 lengths on the turf Aug. 26 (VIDEO) .
Tyler Pizarro rode the poised Big Band Sound to victory for trainer Dan Vella at odds of 5-2. The 5-year-old son of Bernstein stalked the pacesetters in the seven-furlong test while saving ground, angled out in the lane, and split rivals to emerge with the lead approaching mid-stretch.
The bay horse quickly opened up a clear advantage and held steady as Riding the River rallied late to edge Delegation for second. The final time for the Play the King, a key stakes prep for the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) Sept. 16, was 1:21.62 on firm going.
Smokey Fire, the 2-1 favorite in the field of nine, was in position to challenge in the homestretch but faded to finish last.
Owned by Kendel D. Standlee, Big Band Sound had been given a freshening following a runner-up finish by a neck to Riding the River in the one-mile King Edward Stakes (gr. IIT) June 24. That was his fourth consecutive second-place finish in Woodbine stakes since April 7. The Play the King was the second win in seven starts this year for Big Band Sound.
Vella, who won the Play the King in 1995 with King Ruckus, said: "He's a really nice horse. This is what it's about for us trainers. A good horse does good things. He came into the race very well and hopefully we did the right thing in freshening him. He ran four very tough races in the spring. We thought a fresh horse in the fall would be worth having.
"The (Woodbine) Mile is certainly something we'd all like to run in, and be a part of. It's a great race. I'll have to talk to the owners but certainly it's in our sights. He gets the trip (mile). He showed that. And now he's got his race in him, he should be ready for a prime effort."
Richard Schultz bred Big Band Sound, who is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Ensnare, in Kentucky.
Forwardly placed by Pizarro, Big Band Sound rated just behind the pacesetter, Stormy Rush, who battled with Artic Fern through reasonable quarter-mile fractions of :23.33 and :46.21. Delegation, racing on the outside for Jermaine Bridgmohan, increased the pressure on the leaders in upper stretch.
But it was Big Band Sound who shifted off the rail for the drive and snatched the advantage. He won under steady urging from Pizarro.
"There wasn't that much speed on paper so we just wanted to get him into the race, get him to relax," Pizarro explained. "We got perfect cover. He relaxed very well and when I asked him to go, he just bulled right through those horses and never stopped running."
Riding the River, shortening up following his victory in the 1 1/8-mile Nijinksy Stakes (gr. IIT) July 22, emerged from the pack for Todd Kabel after being blocked in upper stretch to chase the winner home in the final furlong. He finished a half-length in front of Delegation.
Big Band Sound improved his record to 5-4-3 in 17 starts with earnings of $363,200.
Carrying 117 pounds, Big Band Sound paid $7.80, $4.10, and $3 as the second choice. Riding the River, who toted co-top weight of 123 pounds, returned $5.80 and $3.60 as his two-race win streak came to an end for trainer David Cotey. The exacta was worth $29.70. The lightly raced Delegation, second in the inaugural one-mile Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park July 28, paid $4.30.
Bear Tough Tiger and Right One were scratched by stewards.